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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bhima and Hanuman - Maha Bharata Series 14

In Book 3, Section 141, Vishnu says that he will one day separate the soul from the body of Narakasura. This, of course, happens during his avatar (reincarnation) as Krishna. The point for me is about separating the soul from the body. Vishnu did not say “I will take Naraka’s life; but the soul”. Obviously, our ancestors believed, as did the western cultures, in an entity called the “soul”, separate from the body capable of independent existence.

Later in this section, there is an episode where the Pandavas and Draupadi are on their way to Kailas. This was the time Arjuna had been sent by Dharma to acquire celestial weapons. When they are walking, they see an unusual - looking lotus flower. Draupadi asks Bhima to find out its source and bring her some more of those lotuses. Bhima being Bhima, causes havoc walking through the forest uprooting trees and crushing animals. At one point, Hanuman shows up. We learn that Hanuman is also a son of Vayu (God of the Wind) just as Bhima is; only that Hanuman was in Treta yuga and Bhima in Dwapara Yuga.

Hanuman tells Bhima: “Why are you hurting innocent animals like an ignorant child? You should be kind to all creatures. We animals are ignorant of virtues. But, you humans are endowed with reason and should show kindness”.

 Actually, Hanuman showed up because Bhima came to a crossroad and started walking the path of the celestials. Hanuman wants Bhima to take the path of the mortals. Hanuman lies down on the path and asks Bhima to jump over him. Bhima does not and gives a reason I do not understand. Then Bhima asks Hanuman to show his full form. (This is forerunner of the later episode during Gitopadesa when Arjuna asks Krishna to show his full form and Krishna obliges) Hanuman declines to do so. He says: “The times are different. I did it in a previous yuga. Rivers, trees, plants and Gods conform to time, and in harmony with the contexts”.

Later, Hanuman talks about the varnas (the so-called castes) and the duties of people in each varna. He talks about order in society when everyone does his/her duty according to the dharma for the varna. In Section 148, Hanuman says that in Krita yuga, there was only one eternal religion (Sanatana Dharma). There was no need for sacrifices (yagnas). There was harmony and full health. There were no Vedas or Gods. There was only Brahman and only one mantra (OM). In the next yuga (Treta), Vedas came in and sacrifices were introduced. Virtues declined. Religions and religious rites and rituals came in. In Dwapara Yuga, religion declined. Vedas divided into four. People who knew Vedas declined but those who knew Shastras increased. Truth declined and passion increased. In Kali Yuga, he predicted that Dharma (virtues) will decline by 3/4th. Vedas and religions will be abandoned. Six things will lead to fear, famine and scarcity. They are: excess rain, draught, rats and locusts  (pests), birds and “other” people. This last list is interesting and I do not know who is referred to as “other people”.

In section 157, there are lists of several kinds of fruits, flowers, and birds. Some of them are either extinct or mythical like the chataka bird, who is supposed to drink only rain water as the rain is falling or the Sarabha, an animal with eight legs.  Others are well-known such as mango, pomegranate, jujube (ilandai) and fig; peacock and woodpecker; champaka and palmyra.

Then, there are celestials beings such as kinnara (deformed), kimpurusha (half-man and half-steed, yaksha ( superhuman beings living in inaccessible halls and mountains), gandharvas (celestial musicians), apsaras (celestial dancers), siddhas (perfected, emancipated, semi-divine), charanas (wandering minsterlsm bards), rakshasas (barbarians with funny years, born on the day they are conceived and grow fast within a year) with conditional immortality and their counterparts Asuras, celestials with no death.

Among all of these, mrudangam (musical instrument, a drum used in classical south indian music)  is also mentioned.

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